Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) represent a major public health problem that affects 2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population. Children with FASD have high rates of mental health problems that place a significant burden on their families, local resources, and society. Problems with emotion regulation are implicated in most mental health disorders. Few empirically-validated interventions exist for children with FASD. Research suggests that child-focused interventions targeting emotion regulation in children with FASD are insufficient to habilitate their emotion regulation skills to adaptive levels. The proposed study investigates a novel intervention target to improve the emotion regulation and adaptive functioning of children with FASD. Research with other populations provides ample evidence for the influence of parent emotion socialization on the development of child emotion regulation and other outcomes. Parent emotion socialization is amenable to intervention and results in improved child and parent outcomes in other populations. The overarching goal of the proposed study is to test whether an existing emotion-focused parenting intervention improves parent emotion socialization and child emotion regulation and behavior in children with FASD. In addition, this study will investigate the parent emotion socialization attitudes and practices that are associated with more adaptive emotion regulation in children with FASD.
Study aims will be addressed in the context of a randomized controlled trial with a delayed-waitlist control group. A total of 80 children (ages 4 to 12) with FASD and their parents will be enrolled, and multi-level assessments (parent-report, observation, physiology) will be conducted at three time points (baseline, immediate post-intervention, 3-month follow-up). Study hypotheses are: 1) that specific parent and child characteristics will predict individual differences in the emotion socialization attitudes and practices of parents raising children with FASD; 2) that specific parent emotion socialization attitudes and practices are associated with more adaptive levels of emotion regulation in children with FASD; 3) that families who receive the Tuning In To Kids intervention will demonstrate improved parent emotion socialization, child emotion regulation, and child behavior in comparison to families in the waitlist control group; and 4) that parent emotion socialization will mediate the intervention effect on child emotion regulation and behavior. Results of this study will have a significant impact on the future development of parent training interventions with long- range outcomes of improving child functioning and reducing the burden associated with mental health problems in this population. The proposed study will also lay the foundation and guide more complex developmental study of the parent and child factors that influence the development of emotion regulation in children with FASD.
Emotion regulation represents a core area of impairment in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and underlies the high rates of mental health problems seen in this population. This study aims to test the efficacy of an emotion-focused parent intervention to determine if parent emotion socialization is a promising target for intervention to improve the emotion regulation skills of children with FASD.